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Birders

Recent Sightings - Kruger National Park - January to December 2004

Lower Sabie Area – Christmas Time 2004

We were in Lower Sabie over the Christmas period and had some excellent birding. The dirt road that leads to Salitje road was especially rewarding. On Christmas day we found an African Crake on the road. It moved about without any concern and I was able to get some good video footage. Sinclair’s book on birding in the Kruger mentions 3 sightings in the Stolsnek area but as the book is a bit dated, you might have more up to date data on this bird in the Kruger. There can be no doubt as to the id, we had long uninterrupted views of the bird and could even see the red around the eye. On the same road we also had numerous spotting of Harlequin Quails, Shelley's Francolin and even 2 Black Coucal.

- Hendrik Viljoen

[ I'm not familiar with Sinclair's book on Kruger. I do still have a copy of Newman's 1987 Birds of Kruger which describes its status as rare and secretive but widespread in the park, especially in season's of high rainfall. Personally I have seen it twice in the park. Once in 1998 on the access road to Nkaya, and once in 2000 on the S21 between Lower Sabie and Skukuza. - Editor]

Kruger 16 to 23 December 2004

  • Kurrichane Buttonquail - sightings on the road between Skukuza and Lake Panic and just after entering Malelane Gate.
  • Senegal (Lesser Black-winged) Plover - +-20 seen on the Voortrekker Road
  • Cuckoo Finch - 1 seen on the Voortrekker Road
  • Yellow-billed Oxpecker - 2 seen around Mopani (1 on a giraffe, 1 on a buffalo)
  • Pallid Harrier - 1 male along the H1-7, 1 male to the East of Mopani
  • Montagu's Harrier - 2 males east of Mopani
  • Bohm's Spinetail - Pafuri picnic site
  • Tropical Boubou - Pafuri picnic site
  • Wattle-eyed Flycatcher - Pafuri picnic site
  • Temminck's Courser - group of 6 adults and 2 juveniles on H1-7
  • Bronze-winged Courser - night drive out of Mopani
  • Allen’s (Lesser) Gallinule - Wetland on H1-6 tar road 18km North of Letaba
  • Broad-billed Roller - Nyala loop (Pafuri)
  • Long-tailed Starling - 15+ seen in Pafuri area

- Andrew Kruger

Kruger 6 to 13 December 2004

We spent two nights each at Biyamati, Skukuza, and Punda Maria as well as a night at the Shipandani Bird Hide(nr Mopani). We saw 206 species of birds and highlights included Pallid Harrier (Lower Sabie), Stierling’s Barred Warbler( near intersection of Albasini and Doispane road),White-Backed Night Heron ( A pair flew past the Shipandani bird hide at dusk and were on the opposite bank just before sunrise.), and Wattle-Eyed Flycatcher and Thrush Nightingale at Pafuri. The Thrush Nightingale was in the base of a tree near the Guard’s hut. On our last day we came across an unusual warbler.

We were driving along the Mahonie loop on Monday 13th December at ca 06h15 and were 5 km along the RHS of the loop after leaving Punda Maria and had already passed Coetzer Dam. We saw a large warbler fly into a small shrub to our left. It had a light brown back with a very white un-streaked throat. It had a very prominent thin white stripe above the eye which extended beyond the eye. The eye was red in colour...The tail was longish and darker brown than the back … It had a long thin pointed beak. The lower mandible was pinkish in colour. The warbler had a buff wash on the lower belly under the tail. It was preening and under certain angles the feathers on the head appeared crest-like to me. Magui did not notice this. We saw thin bars clearly on it’s primary wing tips. We did not notice the colour of the legs. We watched it for about five minutes but it flew off soon after a rattling cisticola flew into the shrub. It was slightly larger than the rattling cisticola and we estimated its size as about 15-16 cm. The warbler did not call while we were watching it. There was no water close to the shrub but there had been good rain during the previous week. Upon our return home, we were lucky to see a new bird for our garden- a European Marsh Warbler which was definitely much smaller than the warbler we saw. We believe that the Warbler was a Basra Reed Warbler and it matches well with photographs of a specimen ringed along the Levuvhu bank by Mostert Kriek and colleagues in 1993. - Howard Rayner

Kruger 17 to 21 November 2004

We visited Pretoriukop and Lower-Sabie and encountered the following specials among a list of 153 species.

  • Lesser Spotted Eagle - near Skukuza on H1-1
  • Kurrichane Buttonquail - near Lower Sabie
  • Redcollared Widowbird - H1-1 near Pretoriuskop
  • Whitewinged Widowbird - H1-1 near Pretoriuskop
  • Lesser Grey Shrike - N’watimhiri Road (arguing with a Forktailed Drongo)
  • Montagu’s Harrier - H10 past Muntshe (It quartered a couple of times next to the road)

Other great sightings were 2 Verreaux’s (Giant) Eagle Owls on the H1-4 in the early morning right next to the road in a Leadwood Tree and a Whitecrowned Lapwing at Nkuhlu. - Herman van Heerden

Kruger: 16 November 2004

An early entry into the Kruger National Park at Pafuri gate provided some fantastic birding in and around the picnic site. The site itself produced Bohm's Spinetail, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Tropical Boubou and Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, whilst White-crowned Lapwing were prevalent along the entire stretch of the Levuvhu river. A pair of Melba finches got the pulse racing for a few seconds, but unfortunately they remained Melba finches! Despite the recent sightings no Orange-winged Pytilias could be found, although they had been seen a few days earlier.

The rest of the trip was spent further south, with some notable birds being added to the list. These included a number of Yellow-billed Oxpeckers on one of the buffalo herds, Pygmy and Greyhooded Kingfishers, Mosque Swallow, and, 3.6km north of the Nkovakulu waterhole, a stunning Dickinson's Kestrel. At the Masorini Picnic and Archaeological site near Phalaborwa Gate a very confiding pair of Great Spotted Cuckoos put on a fabulous display and came so close I almost couldn't focus down on them! There were also regular sightings of African Cuckoo and European Golden Oriole, as well as a group of Collared Pratincoles at Shimuweni Dam. Interestingly the trip yielded 7 kingfishers, of which Woodland was not one of them!

To top it off a nightdrive from Mopani camp provided the animal highlights for the trip when both Serval and African Wild Cat were found.

Another magnificent trip to this area! - Ryan Ebedes

Punda Maria Area - October 2004

Arnot's Chat, Bohms Spinetail, Black-crowned Tchagra, Brown-crowned (Three-streaked) Tchagra, Green-winged Pytilia (Melba Finch), Painted Snipe, Eastern (Yellow-Spotted) Nicator and of course our Crested Guineafowls are back on the Flycatcher Trail.

Palmnut Vulture has been reported once again from Crooks Corner near Pafuri - Lize Kelder (Punda Maria)

Pafuri - Kruger - 21 October 2004

I have just returned from three days at the TEBA Camp near Pafuri in the Kruger Park. An interesting sighting was a group of Pied Mannikin. The birds were positively identified by me, Frank (the Local Bird Expert) and two other birders in the group. The birds were seen at about 11:30 on the 21/10/04. - Stewart Matheson

Northern Kruger - 16 - 20 October 2004

Excellent sighting of Dickenson's Kestrel at T -junction at Crook's Corner on the 17th. Thick-billed Cuckoo was heard calling from the other side of the river at the picnic site. Little Sparrowhawk seen devouring a firefinch.

Mahonie Loop produced Grey-headed Parrot, Eastern Nicator and Retz's Helmetshrike as some of its more exciting species.

Two parties of very tame Arnot's Chat were seen in quick succession on the Punda Gate Road between the turn off to the camp and the main H1 turn-off.

Some very tame and bold African Painted Snipe (at least 2 pairs) have been showing easily in the river at Letaba Camp. Apparently they have been there for a few days now.

- Chris Patton

Bushman's Wilderness Trail - Southern Kruger National Park - 13 to 20 October 2004

Birds are beginning to reach full volume, but still offer maximum visibility. The veld is still very wintery in form, but the birds have turned it up a notch or two in their calling, supplemented of course by migratory returns. African Cuckoo calling frequently easy to pick up as a silhouette on a leafless tree. The Trail itself is characterised by a wealth of birds and activity. Highlights include Jackal Buzzard; Grey-hooded and Pygmy Kingfisher; Red-throated Wryneck; and Cuckoo Finch. Field observation: Hooded Vulture following a pack of 11 Wild dogs. - Nic Squires

Kruger - Berg-en-Dal - 5 September 2004

We were fortunate enough to find these birds at Berg-en-dal(KNP) on Sunday, 5/9, after scritinizing dozens of Red-billed Firefinches with increasingly less hope. After a luckless Saturday afternoon, we waited for about an hour on Sunday morning. Two Pytilias, one male, one female, came flying over the mudbanks at the dam inlet in the camp, took an extended shower in the sprayers on the lawn of the nearest chalet and then dried off in a nearby shrub and tree. We were able to approach to within 10 yards of the birds and one of the cleaners actually walked directly under them without causing any alarm. We spent half an hour from 10h00 observing the pair before they flew off.

The orange wing panels were surprisingly bright and the male's red markings behind the eye,with the grey fringe coming right around to the upper breast was clearly visible. As far as a green belly is concerned,only if we are both colour blind. I observed the colour on both individuals as a soft dove-grey with fine white bars. In general they do look more drab than the Green-winged. - Frans and Adele Van Vuuren

Wilderness Trail - Southern Kruger National Park – September 2004

Bushman trail - 1-8 September: Greencapped Eromomela Matjulu water hole area. Speculate whether this bird has had a range expansion due to the proloific flowering of Knobthorns. A very uncommon bird only seen from 2 other localities here in the Southern corner of the park.

Metsi trail - 5 Barn Owl fledgelings flushed from a Hamerkop's nest.This is just to highlight the ongoing learning oppurtunities trailing gives one.Wood Owl known to do the same, observed on Nyalaland trail, Levubu river previously.

Trails in general - 15% discount November, December, January and February. Support from the birding fraternity will be greatly appreciated. Contact person Bridget Bagley 012 426 5111. - Nic Squires

Bushman Wilderness Trail: Kruger National Park - August 2004

On Sunday 22 August, between 12 and 1 pm , we observed thirteen Hottentot Teal resting up at Shawu No. 3 near Mopani.

A few kilometres later at Mooiplaas, we saw a single Cape Teal . I have not seen reference of this being seen in the KNP in any of my books. I would be interested to know how frequently this is seen in the Park.

On Monday 23 August, we saw a single Hottentot Teal at Mooiplaas. - David Nabarro

[Ed. The Cape Teal is not on the park list as depicted under checklists, so David's record is an exciting one.]

Berg-en-Dal Camp, Kruger - 29 August 2004

On reading about the orange winged pytilia sighting on 23rd at Berg-en-dal we went early this morning to see if we could find them. When we arrived it was cool and overcast but by 10 am the sun came out and it warmed up. At 10:30 we saw a group of 14 Orange -Winged Pytilias drinking and bathing at the dam's edge! What a wonderful sight. There were 3 males and 11 females and once they had finished bathing they flew into some nearby bushes and preened for about 10 minutes. With the scope we could see all details of the birds. My wife and would like to thank Duncan and Warren for bringing this lifer to our attention. - Roy Sarkin

Kruger, Central Region - 25 August 2004

I would like to report 2 unusual sightings for KNP. The first is a Pygmy Falcon seen on S100 south of Satara between the Shibotwana & Nsasane Waterholes on 25/8. The bird was sitting in a dead tree and was clearly identifiable by its clean white chest, very small size and general falcon-like features. Another great sighting we had was 4 Orangewinged Pytilia (1 male, 3 females) at the RatelPan BirdHide just north of Timbavati between Satara and Olifants. The birds were very shy and unobtrusive and sat preening each other for about 20 minutes before moving further back in the bush and out of site. The orange wing panels being clearly visible along with the red rump, red face and bill. - Kevin Ravno

Pafuri, Kruger - 25 August 2004

On 10 July I saw a male Orange-winged Pytilia on the S64( Nyala Drive ) in Kruger. It momentarily sat in the road before disappearing in the riverine scrub along the Luvuvhu river. - Edith Oosthuizen

Bushman's Wilderness Trail, Kruger Park - 18-25 August 2004

  • 2 imm Arrowmarked Babblers being fed by adults. Each bird following seperate adult, including constant begging calls and wing flapping. Roberts' mentions breeding all year round in ' Transvaal '.
  • 2 Swee Waxbills Nsikazi river
  • To date still no sightings of Wahlberg's Eagle
  • 90 Redbilled Oxpeckers at a communal roost outside Malelane gate. Birds arrive in singles or in groups of twenty, and all seem to have an affinity to sleeping in Aloe trees. This phenomenon also in Lower Sabie rest camp. What sets the Malelane roost aside is the contrast in atmosphere with cane trucks and buses dominating the area.

- Nic Squires (Bushman Wilderness Trail Ranger) (View the Wilderness Trails under Kruger Activities to select a spot on one of our 7 Wilderness Trails)

Berg-en-Dal Camp, Kruger - 23 August 2004

Duncan McKenzie has just reported what could be a first for Kruger Park - Orange-winged Pytilia. A male and two females were seen this morning drinking at Matjulu waterhole at Berg-en-Dal camp, and the birds were scoped as well, providing good views of the orange wing panels (both in male and females). This is an extremely rare bird in South Africa , and for those of you who keep SA lists (aka 650 club) - this is a special one to have on your list. The birds may be temporarily resident, so it would be worth keeping an eye out for them in the vicinity of the camp. - Warren McCleland

[Orangewinged (formerly Goldenbacked Pytilias) are reported fairly regularly from the far northern parts of the park. Such southerly records are an exciting development. - Ed.]

Kruger – July 2004

We had a great Kruger trip at the beginning of July.

We spent one night in Skukuza, three in Satara and three in Biyamiti. The birding was excellent and although my friend is not a birder, we managed to identify 126 species and had a couple of really interesting sightings.
On the way up to Satara on 4th July we saw a Saddle-billed Stork on a nest with a youngster. I have never seen one on a nest before so was pretty excited. When it finally hunkered down we were astonished to see that such a huge bird became totally invisible in the nest.

On 5th July I saw a Common Scimitarbill in Satara camp. (I don't find them very common in Kruger!) At Sunset dam near Lower Sabie on 7th July there was a Pied Avocet - a bird I have not seen in the park before although I have visited regularly for 22 years.
We found Mosque Swallows at the Biyamiti weir on 8th July - perhaps this is only significant for me because, strangely enough, it is a life tick! Near Biyamiti on 9th July we also had a nice sighting of an African hawk-eagle. On the Biyamiti road we spent a little time following a Levaillant's Cuckoo as it flitted through the bush.

The most interesting of all was on our way to Crocodile River on 9th, when we came across a female Bateleur hanging upside down from the end of a dead branch. She hung there for about ten minutes whilst we watched, although I have no idea for how long she was there before we arrived. She stretched out both wings and flapped them a couple of times, then a little later stretched out one wing and then folded it back against her side. Finally she put out both wings and gave a few strong flaps and swings upright onto the branch. I have no real idea what this behaviour implied, and no one I have spoken to can explain it. If you find yourself thinking: 'Took the photo upside down' 'it thinks it's a bat' or 'it's a female, what do you expect' - hey, I've been there. I have included a rather poor photo - the bateleur was a bit far away for anything worthwhile.

On 10 July we came across a Tawny eagle with what looked like the remains of a leguavaan, and, in the same tree but a little higher up, eyeing it hungrily, a juvenile bateleur. A little later, also on the Crocodile River road we saw a bateleur with a juvenile that was begging to be groomed. It sidled very slowly up the branch to the adult, placed its talons quite far apart on the branch and bent submissively so that its head came below the adult's beak. The adult then started pulling at the feathers of its poll, one at a time. We saw large numbers of juvenile bateleurs and a lot of Southern Ground Hornbills, which was very pleasing considering their uncertain status outside the Park.

One other observation - I have never seen as many black-shouldered kites in the park as I have this year. There was almost an epidemic of them on the road between Satara and Ngotso dam on 6/7/04. If you are going that way - enjoy the trip. We have 339 sleeps before our next one… - Sal Davies

Kruger - Northern region - July 2004

We visited the park on the weekend of the 24th, 25th of July and ticked some nice ones:

  • Pearl Spotted owlet near Phalaborwa gate.
  • Common Scimitarbill near Phalaborwa gate.
  • Kori Bustard between Phalaborwa gate and Letaba.
  • White headed and whitebacked vultures between Orpen and Satara.
  • Ground Hornbill between Letaba and Olifants and near Satara.
  • Yellow billed storks near Olifants.
  • Saddlebilled Stork near Olifants.
  • Goliath Heron near Olifants.
  • Brownheaded kingfisher near Olifants.
  • Scarlet-chested Sunbird at Olifants.
  • Marico Sunbird at Satara.
  • Golden breasted bunting near Phalaborwa gate.

- Dirk Human, Pretoria

Kruger National Park - July 2004

My wife and I returned on Sunday from a trip to the Kruger National Park , South Africa .
We had a lovely time and returned with a list of 206 species, including 30 lifers. The highlight of the trip was extended views of a male and female African Finfoot searching for a roosting spot at sunset. This was seen on the Nyala trail.

Other highlights included Black-throated Wattle-eye (Pafuri), Yellow White-eyes (Pafuri), Female Black Cuckooshrike (Leeupan), a host of different raptors (5 Vulture, 17 Birds of Prey and 5 Owl species), Böhm's Spinetails (Punda Maria), Common Quail and Small Buttonquail to just name a few.

A complete trip report is available on my website, under the trip reports tab (aprox. 4000 words long), and a complete trip list (a complete list as well as seperate daylists for the entire trip) is available under the sightings journal tab.

A gallery with some of the photo's we took will be posted as soon as possible. - - Hanno Langenhoven, www.obenbosch.com

Northern Kruger: July 2004

Matambeni Birdhide near Letaba Camp - 21 July- Imm Greater Flamingo, 2 birds. Blackbacked Cisticola. Kittlitz's Plover abundant, highwater bridge over the Letaba river also a good spot to view them.

Olifants trail 21-24 July- Common Sandpiper; African Marsh Warbler; Pearlbreasted Swallow and Whitecrowned Shrike.

- Nic Squires, Wilderness Trails

Kruger - July 2004

A winter break to Satara in Kruger produced multiple sightings of Harlequin Quail on the H 1-4. They were present in impressive numbers! Mosque Swallows were also sighted on the S100. - Herman van Heerden

Kruger - July 2004

  • Leeupan 7 July - Pygmy Geese 3 + 2 birds
  • Olifants trail 7-10 July - Moorhen( confirmed breeding); Painted Snipe;
  • Whitecrowned Plover; Horus Swift; Crowned Hornbill; Greyrumped Swallow;
  • Yellowbellied Bulubul; Blackbacked Cisticola and Streakyheaded Canary.
  • A field highlight was a pair of Redwinged Starlings perching on and feeding off a Klipspringer ram.

- Nic Squires

Kruger - Sirheni, Pafuri and Mopani - July 2004

Recently returned from Kruger Park. We spent 4 nights in Serheni and 1 night in the hide outside Mopani. We also managed to get up to Pafuri for a day.

The park is very wet for this time of year. Lots of standing water and lots of long grass. the grass is not good for animal watching - fortunately that did nothing to dampen the spirits of the birding members of our family! There are also large areas of flooded grassland that are great for skulking reed species.

We mangaed a total list of 142 birds. This is the biggest winter list that we have ever managed. Notable birds included the following: all the storks that could be seen - this included two beautiful saddle bills, lots of black shouldered kites - haven't seen these in park before, red bileld helmet shrikes (in Punda Maria); red capped robin chat (natal robin) in Serheni; yellow billed oxpecker; crested guineafowl (pafuri); wattle-eyed flycatcher (pafuri); yellow white-eye(pafuri); common quail - first time that we have ever seen quail in the park - and we managed to see 2!! (according to the atlas these birds can still be around at this time of year). Frank at the Pafuri picnic site is very helpful. He knows all the birds of the area and is always willing to help.

Further about the sleeping over in the hide. We booked accommodation there from Mopani. Apparently this can also be done centrally through parks board. These hides are a new concept, I think, whereby guests are allowed to stay over in selected hides. The Park provides bedding, crockery and cutlery and water. At the hides there are beds that fold down off the wall. There is also a lovely boma where you can safely braai. All in all a very memorable experience. Only problem is that you can only enter the hide 30min before gate closing time and you have to be out by 30 min after gate opening. This can be a problem during the summer! - Cheers and happy birding - Gerard

Kruger - June/July 2004

Just returned from a 5 night stay in Letaba, followed by 4 nights in Lower Sabie . The weather was good and we even had light rain on 30 June. The Tshokwane/Skukuza area actually had quite a shower. The park is lush at the moment and I believe the "game-spotters" as an American visitor called them, had a tough time finding animals in the thick undergrowth. We certainly found fewer animals than expected.

The birding, however, was excellent and we recorded 198 species, despite having a non-birding driver amongst the four of us. He should be commended for his perseverance, patience and braking skills on the often congested roads in the park! The "Birdwatching - Please Pass" sign on our rear windscreen did little to appease his nerves when he was frequently called/commanded/begged to stop on very short notice! Neither did our advance warnings that birders are prone to sudden stops ;-))

On 3 consecutive nights in the Letaba campsite we were entertained by African Barred Owlet, African Scops-Owl and Pearl-spotted Owlet, all calling simultaneously and providing good views. The African Barred Owlet even called from the concealment of a leafy tree around noon one day and was found after some searching. Thick-tailed bushbabies were very active and vocal at night, right above our tent. The Matambeni hide on the Engelhard dam is excellent and provided an assortment of birds.

On 29 June we recorded a formation of 42 Greater Flamingo flying in a southerly direction over Letaba. This was a new winter record for us. So was a single Pied Avocet, rare in the Kruger, which was present at Sunset dam outside Lower Sabie from 2-4 July.
Another Pied Avocet was also seen at Leeupan on 2 July. Leeupan also provided excellent scope views of 2 juvenile Allen's Gallinule, with the adults nowhere in sight. The recently reported African Pygmy-Geese could not be found, but a single Red-knobbed Coot (rare in the Park) was seen.

We were quite surprised to find a young Levaillant's Cuckoo being tended by its Arrow-marked Babbler foster parents and young Babblers in the riparian woodland on the Letaba river, about 4 kms north of camp on the H1-6. This indicates very late egg-laying by the cuckoos (late May). Even more surprising was the sighting of two active and vocal adult Levaillant's Cuckoo in Crocodile Bridge camp on 2 July!

At Hippo Pools on the Crocodile river we recorded Yellow Weaver, a new addition to our Kruger list and seldom seen in the park, according to Sinclair and Whyte's field guide to Kruger birds. We have never seen so many Black-shouldered Kite in the park as on this trip! On 30 June we counted in excess of 60 birds in a 5km stretch of grassland between Olifants and Tshokwane.

Other nice birds we recorded were Shelley's Francolin, Cape Wagtail (sparse in Kruger) and Bronze-winged Courser at Lower Sabie, Bennett's Woodpecker, Black Cuckooshrike (female) and Lesser Honeyguide at Croc Bridge, Mosque Swallow, Bearded Scrub-Robin (in camp) and Square-Tailed Nightjar at Letaba, White-crowned Lapwing at Nkuhlu and Olifants lookout.

Notable and disappointing dips on this trip were, amongst others, African Finfoot (most probably due to driver impatience), Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Spotted Thick-knee (!!), Red-capped Robin-Chat (not even a squeak), Senegal Lapwing, Secretarybird, 3 accipiters, Coqui Francolin, and the list goes on... - Dawie Kleynhans, Sasolburg

Lower Sabie area: Christmas Time 2004

We were in Lower Sabie over the Christmas period and had some excellent birding. The dirt road that leads to Salitje road was especially rewarding. On Christmas day we found an African Crake on the road. It moved about without any concern and I was able to get some good video footage. Sinclair's book on birding in the Kruger mentions 3 sightings in the Stolsnek area but as the book is a bit dated, you might have more up to date data on this bird in the Kruger. There can be no doubt as to the id, we had long uninterrupted views of the bird and could even see the red around the eye. On the same road we also had numerous spotting of Harlequin Quails, Shelley's Francolin and even 2 Black Coucal. - Hendrik Viljoen

[I'm not familiar with Sinclair's book on Kruger. I do still have a copy of Newman's 1987 Birds of Kruger which describes its status as rare and secretive but widespread in the park, especially in season's of high rainfall. Personally I have seen it twice in the park. Once in 1998 on the access road to Nkaya, and once in 2000 on the S21 between Lower Sabie and Skukuza. - Editor]

Kruger: 16 to 23 December 2004

  • Kurrichane Buttonquail - sightings on the road between Skukuza and Lake Panic and just after entering Malelane Gate.
  • Senegal (Lesser Black-winged) Plover - +-20 seen on the Voortrekker Road
  • Cuckoo Finch - 1 seen on the Voortrekker Road
  • Yellow-billed Oxpecker - 2 seen around Mopani (1 on a giraffe, 1 on a buffalo)
  • Pallid Harrier - 1 male along the H1-7, 1 male to the East of Mopani
  • Montagu's Harrier - 2 males east of Mopani
  • Bohm's Spinetail - Pafuri picnic site
  • Tropical Boubou - Pafuri picnic site
  • Wattle-eyed Flycatcher - Pafuri picnic site
  • Temminck's Courser - group of 6 adults and 2 juveniles on H1-7
  • Bronze-winged Courser - night drive out of Mopani
  • Allen's (Lesser) Gallinule - Wetland on H1-6 tar road 18km North of Letaba
  • Broad-billed Roller - Nyala loop (Pafuri)
  • Long-tailed Starling - 15+ seen in Pafuri area

- Andrew Kruger

Kruger: 6 to 13 December 2004

We spent two nights each at Biyamati, Skukuza, and Punda Maria as well as a night at the Shipandani Bird Hide(nr Mopani). We saw 206 species of birds and highlights included Pallid Harrier (Lower Sabie), Stierling's Barred Warbler( near intersection of Albasini and Doispane road),White-Backed Night Heron ( A pair flew past the Shipandani bird hide at dusk and were on the opposite bank just before sunrise.), and Wattle-Eyed Flycatcher and Thrush Nightingale at Pafuri. The Thrush Nightingale was in the base of a tree near the Guard's hut. On our last day we came across an unusual warbler.

We were driving along the Mahonie loop on Monday 13th December at ca 06h15 and were 5 km along the RHS of the loop after leaving Punda Maria and had already passed Coetzer Dam. We saw a large warbler fly into a small shrub to our left. It had a light brown back with a very white un-streaked throat. It had a very prominent thin white stripe above the eye which extended beyond the eye. The eye was red in colour...The tail was longish and darker brown than the back ... It had a long thin pointed beak. The lower mandible was pinkish in colour. The warbler had a buff wash on the lower belly under the tail. It was preening and under certain angles the feathers on the head appeared crest-like to me. Magui did not notice this. We saw thin bars clearly on it's primary wing tips. We did not notice the colour of the legs. We watched it for about five minutes but it flew off soon after a rattling cisticola flew into the shrub. It was slightly larger than the rattling cisticola and we estimated its size as about 15-16 cm. The warbler did not call while we were watching it. There was no water close to the shrub but there had been good rain during the previous week.

Upon our return home, we were lucky to see a new bird for our garden- a European Marsh Warbler which was definitely much smaller than the warbler we saw. We believe that the Warbler was a Basra Reed Warbler and it matches well with photographs of a specimen ringed along the Levuvhu bank by Mostert Kriek and colleagues in 1993. - Howard Rayner

Kruger: 17 to 21 November 2004

We visited Pretoriukop and Lower-Sabie and encountered the following specials among a list of 153 species.

  • Lesser Spotted Eagle - near Skukuza on H1-1
  • Kurrichane Buttonquail - near Lower Sabie
  • Redcollared Widowbird - H1-1 near Pretoriuskop
  • Whitewinged Widowbird - H1-1 near Pretoriuskop
  • Lesser Grey Shrike - N’watimhiri Road (arguing with a Forktailed Drongo)
  • Montagu’s Harrier - H10 past Muntshe (It quartered a couple of times next to the road)
  • Other great sightings were 2 Verreaux’s (Giant) Eagle Owls on the H1-4 in the early morning right next to the road in a Leadwood Tree and a Whitecrowned Lapwing at Nkuhlu.

- Herman van Heerden

Kruger: 16 November 2004

An early entry into the Kruger National Park at Pafuri gate provided some fantastic birding in and around the picnic site. The site itself produced Bohm's Spinetail, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Tropical Boubou and Gorgeous Bush-Shrike, whilst White-crowned Lapwing were prevalent along the entire stretch of the Levuvhu river. A pair of Melba finches got the pulse racing for a few seconds, but unfortunately they remained Melba finches! Despite the recent sightings no Orange-winged Pytilias could be found, although they had been seen a few days earlier.

The rest of the trip was spent further south, with some notable birds being added to the list. These included a number of Yellow-billed Oxpeckers on one of the buffalo herds, Pygmy and Greyhooded Kingfishers, Mosque Swallow, and, 3.6km north of the Nkovakulu waterhole, a stunning Dickinson's Kestrel. At the Masorini Picnic and Archaeological site near Phalaborwa Gate a very confiding pair of Great Spotted Cuckoos put on a fabulous display and came so close I almost couldn't focus down on them! There were also regular sightings of African Cuckoo and European Golden Oriole, as well as a group of Collared Pratincoles at Shimuweni Dam. Interestingly the trip yielded 7 kingfishers, of which Woodland was not one of them!

To top it off a nightdrive from Mopani camp provided the animal highlights for the trip when both Serval and African Wild Cat were found.

Another magnificent trip to this area! - Ryan Ebedes

Punda Maria Area: October 2004

Arnot's Chat, Bohms Spinetail, Black-crowned Tchagra, Brown-crowned (Three-streaked) Tchagra, Green-winged Pytilia (Melba Finch), Painted Snipe, Eastern (Yellow-Spotted) Nicator and of course our Crested Guineafowls are back on the Flycatcher Trail.

Palmnut Vulture has been reported once again from Crooks Corner near Pafuri - Lize Kelder (Punda Maria)

Pafuri, Kruger: 21 October 2004

I have just returned from three days at the TEBA Camp near Pafuri in the Kruger Park. An interesting sighting was a group of Pied Mannikin. The birds were positively identified by me, Frank (the Local Bird Expert) and two other birders in the group. The birds were seen at about 11:30 on the 21/10/04. - Stewart Matheson

Northern Kruger: 16 - 20 October 2004

Excellent sighting of Dickenson's Kestrel at T -junction at Crook's Corner on the 17th. Thick-billed Cuckoo was heard calling from the other side of the river at the picnic site. Little Sparrowhawk seen devouring a firefinch.

Mahonie Loop produced Grey-headed Parrot, Eastern Nicator and Retz's Helmetshrike as some of its more exciting species.

Two parties of very tame Arnot's Chat were seen in quick succession on the Punda Gate Road between the turn off to the camp and the main H1 turn-off.

Some very tame and bold African Painted Snipe (at least 2 pairs) have been showing easily in the river at Letaba Camp. Apparently they have been there for a few days now. - Chris Patton

Bushman's Wilderness Trail, Southern Kruger National Park: 13 to 20 October

Birds are beginning to reach full volume, but still offer maximum visibility. The veld is still very wintery in form, but the birds have turned it up a notch or two in their calling, supplemented of course by migratory returns. African Cuckoo calling frequently easy to pick up as a silhouette on a leafless tree. The Trail itself is characterised by a wealth of birds and activity. Highlights include Jackal Buzzard; Grey-hooded and Pygmy Kingfisher; Red-throated Wryneck; and Cuckoo Finch. Field observation: Hooded Vulture following a pack of 11 Wild dogs. - Nic Squires

Berg-en-Dal, Kruger: 5 September 2004

We were fortunate enough to find these birds at Berg-en-dal(KNP) on Sunday, 5/9, after scritinizing dozens of Red-billed Firefinches with increasingly less hope. After a luckless Saturday afternoon, we waited for about an hour on Sunday morning. Two Pytilias, one male, one female, came flying over the mudbanks at the dam inlet in the camp, took an extended shower in the sprayers on the lawn of the nearest chalet and then dried off in a nearby shrub and tree. We were able to approach to within 10 yards of the birds and one of the cleaners actually walked directly under them without causing any alarm. We spent half an hour from 10h00 observing the pair before they flew off.

The orange wing panels were surprisingly bright and the male's red markings behind the eye,with the grey fringe coming right around to the upper breast was clearly visible. As far as a green belly is concerned,only if we are both colour blind. I observed the colour on both individuals as a soft dove-grey with fine white bars. In general they do look more drab than the Green-winged. - Frans and Adele van Vuuren

Kruger: August 2004

On Sunday 22 August, between 12 and 1 pm , we observed thirteen Hottentot Teal resting up at Shawu No. 3 near Mopani.

A few kilometres later at Mooiplaas, we saw a single Cape Teal . I have not seen reference of this being seen in the KNP in any of my books. I would be interested to know how frequently this is seen in the Park.

On Monday 23 August, we saw a single Hottentot Teal at Mooiplaas. - David Nabarro

[Ed. The Cape Teal is not on the park list as depicted under checklists, so David's record is an exciting one.]

Berg-en-Dal Camp, Kruger: 29 August 2004

On reading about the orange winged pytilia sighting on 23rd at Berg-en-dal we went early this morning to see if we could find them. When we arrived it was cool and overcast but by 10 am the sun came out and it warmed up. At 10:30 we saw a group of 14 Orange -Winged Pytilias drinking and bathing at the dam's edge! What a wonderful sight. There were 3 males and 11 females and once they had finished bathing they flew into some nearby bushes and preened for about 10 minutes. With the scope we could see all details of the birds. My wife and would like to thank Duncan and Warren for bringing this lifer to our attention. - Roy Sarkin

Kruger, Central Region: 25 August 2004

I would like to report 2 unusual sightings for KNP. The first is a Pygmy Falcon seen on S100 south of Satara between the Shibotwana & Nsasane Waterholes on 25/8. The bird was sitting in a dead tree and was clearly identifiable by its clean white chest, very small size and general falcon-like features. Another great sighting we had was 4 Orangewinged Pytilia (1 male, 3 females) at the RatelPan BirdHide just north of Timbavati between Satara and Olifants. The birds were very shy and unobtrusive and sat preening each other for about 20 minutes before moving further back in the bush and out of site. The orange wing panels being clearly visible along with the red rump, red face and bill. - Kevin Ravno

Pafuri, Kruger: 25 August 2004

On 10 July I saw a male Orange-winged Pytilia on the S64( Nyala Drive ) in Kruger. It momentarily sat in the road before disappearing in the riverine scrub along the Luvuvhu river. - Edith Oosthuizen

Bushman's Wilderness Trail, Kruger Park: 18-25 August 2004

  • 2 imm Arrowmarked Babblers being fed by adults. Each bird following seperate adult, including constant begging calls and wing flapping. Roberts' mentions breeding all year round in ' Transvaal '
  • 2 Swee Waxbills Nsikazi river
  • To date still no sightings of Wahlberg's Eagle
  • 90 Redbilled Oxpeckers at a communal roost outside Malelane gate. Birds arrive in singles or in groups of twenty, and all seem to have an affinity to sleeping in Aloe trees. This phenomenon also in Lower Sabie rest camp. What sets the Malelane roost aside is the contrast in atmosphere with cane trucks and buses dominating the area.

- Nic Squires (Bushman Wilderness Trail Ranger)

(View the Wilderness Trails under Kruger Activities to select a spot on one of our 7 Wilderness Trails)

Berg-en-Dal Camp, Kruger: 23 August 2004

Duncan McKenzie has just reported what could be a first for Kruger Park - Orange-winged Pytilia. A male and two females were seen this morning drinking at Matjulu waterhole at Berg-en-Dal camp, and the birds were scoped as well, providing good views of the orange wing panels (both in male and females). This is an extremely rare bird in South Africa , and for those of you who keep SA lists (aka 650 club) - this is a special one to have on your list. The birds may be temporarily resident, so it would be worth keeping an eye out for them in the vicinity of the camp. - Warren McCleland

[Orangewinged (formerly Goldenbacked Pytilias) are reported fairly regularly from the far northern parts of the park. Such southerly records are an exciting development. - Ed.]

Kruger: July 2004

We had a great Kruger trip at the beginning of July. We spent one night in Skukuza, three in Satara and three in Biyamiti. The birding was excellent and although my friend is not a birder, we managed to identify 126 species and had a couple of really interesting sightings.
On the way up to Satara on 4 July we saw a Saddle-billed Stork on a nest with a youngster. I have never seen one on a nest before so was pretty excited. When it finally hunkered down we were astonished to see that such a huge bird became totally invisible in the nest.

On 5 July I saw a Common Scimitarbill in Satara camp. (I don't find them very common in Kruger!) At Sunset dam near Lower Sabie on 7 July there was a Pied Avocet - a bird I have not seen in the park before although I have visited regularly for 22 years.

We found Mosque Swallows at the Biyamiti weir on 8 July - perhaps this is only significant for me because, strangely enough, it is a life tick! Near Biyamiti on 9 July we also had a nice sighting of an African hawk-eagle. On the Biyamiti road we spent a little time following a Levaillant's Cuckoo as it flitted through the bush.

The most interesting of all was on our way to Crocodile River on 9th, when we came across a female Bateleur hanging upside down from the end of a dead branch. She hung there for about ten minutes whilst we watched, although I have no idea for how long she was there before we arrived. She stretched out both wings and flapped them a couple of times, then a little later stretched out one wing and then folded it back against her side. Finally she put out both wings and gave a few strong flaps and swings upright onto the branch. I have no real idea what this behaviour implied, and no one I have spoken to can explain it. If you find yourself thinking: 'Took the photo upside down' 'it thinks it's a bat' or 'it's a female, what do you expect' - hey, I've been there. I have included a rather poor photo - the bateleur was a bit far away for anything worthwhile.

On 10 July we came across a Tawny eagle with what looked like the remains of a leguavaan, and, in the same tree but a little higher up, eyeing it hungrily, a juvenile bateleur. A little later, also on the Crocodile River road we saw a bateleur with a juvenile that was begging to be groomed. It sidled very slowly up the branch to the adult, placed its talons quite far apart on the branch and bent submissively so that its head came below the adult's beak. The adult then started pulling at the feathers of its poll, one at a time. We saw large numbers of juvenile bateleurs and a lot of Southern Ground Hornbills, which was very pleasing considering their uncertain status outside the Park.

One other observation - I have never seen as many black-shouldered kites in the park as I have this year. There was almost an epidemic of them on the road between Satara and Ngotso dam on 6/7/04. If you are going that way - enjoy the trip. We have 339 sleeps before our next one… - Sal Davies

Northern region, Kruger: July 2004

We visited the park on the weekend of the 24th, 25th of July and ticked some nice ones:

  • Pearl Spotted owlet near Phalaborwa gate.
  • Common Scimitarbill near Phalaborwa gate.
  • Kori Bustard between Phalaborwa gate and Letaba.
  • White headed and whitebacked vultures between Orpen and Satara.
  • Ground Hornbill between Letaba and Olifants and near Satara.
  • Yellow billed storks near Olifants.
  • Saddlebilled Stork near Olifants.
  • Goliath Heron near Olifants.
  • Brownheaded kingfisher near Olifants.
  • Scarlet-chested Sunbird at Olifants.
  • Marico Sunbird at Satara.
  • Golden breasted bunting near Phalaborwa gate.

- Dirk Human, Pretoria

Kruger National Park: July 2004

My wife and I returned on Sunday from a trip to the Kruger National Park, South Africa.

We had a lovely time and returned with a list of 206 species, including 30 lifers. The highlight of the trip was extended views of a male and female African Finfoot searching for a roosting spot at sunset. This was seen on the Nyala trail.

Other highlights included Black-throated Wattle-eye (Pafuri), Yellow White-eyes (Pafuri), Female Black Cuckooshrike (Leeupan), a host of different raptors (5 Vulture, 17 Birds of Prey and 5 Owl species), Böhm's Spinetails (Punda Maria), Common Quail and Small Buttonquail to just name a few.

A complete trip report is available on my website, under the trip reports tab (aprox. 4000 words long), and a complete trip list (a complete list as well as seperate daylists for the entire trip) is available under the sightings journal tab.

A gallery with some of the photo's we took will be posted as soon as possible. - Hanno Langenhoven

Northern Kruger: July 2004

Matambeni Birdhide near Letaba Camp - 21 July- Imm Greater Flamingo, 2 birds. Blackbacked Cisticola. Kittlitz's Plover abundant, highwater bridge over the Letaba river also a good spot to view them.

Olifants trail 21-24 July- Common Sandpiper; African Marsh Warbler; Pearlbreasted Swallow and Whitecrowned Shrike. - Nic Squires, Wilderness Trails

Kruger: July 2004

A winter break to Satara in Kruger produced multiple sightings of Harlequin Quail on the H 1-4. They were present in impressive numbers! Mosque Swallows were also sighted on the S100. - Herman van Heerden

Kruger: July 2004

  • Leeupan 7 July - Pygmy Geese 3 + 2 birds
  • Olifants trail 7-10 July - Moorhen( confirmed breeding); Painted Snipe
  • Whitecrowned Plover; Horus Swift; Crowned Hornbill; Greyrumped Swallow
  • Yellowbellied Bulubul; Blackbacked Cisticola and Streakyheaded Canary
  • A field highlight was a pair of Redwinged Starlings perching on and feeding off a Klipspringer ram

- Nic Squires

Sirheni, Pafuri and Mopani, Kruger: July 2004

Recently returned from Kruger Park. We spent 4 nights in Serheni and 1 night in the hide outside Mopani. We also managed to get up to Pafuri for a day.

The park is very wet for this time of year. Lots of standing water and lots of long grass. the grass is not good for animal watching - fortunately that did nothing to dampen the spirits of the birding members of our family! There are also large areas of flooded grassland that are great for skulking reed species.

We mangaed a total list of 142 birds. This is the biggest winter list that we have ever managed. Notable birds included the following: all the storks that could be seen - this included two beautiful saddle bills, lots of black shouldered kites - haven't seen these in park before, red bileld helmet shrikes (in Punda Maria); red capped robin chat (natal robin) in Serheni; yellow billed oxpecker; crested guineafowl (pafuri); wattle-eyed flycatcher (pafuri); yellow white-eye(pafuri); common quail - first time that we have ever seen quail in the park - and we managed to see 2!! (according to the atlas these birds can still be around at this time of year).

Frank at the Pafuri picnic site is very helpful. He knows all the birds of the area and is always willing to help. Further about the sleeping over in the hide. We booked accommodation there from Mopani. Apparently this can also be done centrally through parks board. These hides are a new concept, I think, whereby guests are allowed to stay over in selected hides. The Park provides bedding, crockery and cutlery and water. At the hides there are beds that fold down off the wall. There is also a lovely boma where you can safely braai. All in all a very memorable experience. Only problem is that you can only enter the hide 30min before gate closing time and you have to be out by 30 min after gate opening. This can be a problem during the summer! Cheers and happy birding - Gerard

Kruger: June/July 2004

Just returned from a 5 night stay in Letaba, followed by 4 nights in Lower Sabie . The weather was good and we even had light rain on 30 June. The Tshokwane/Skukuza area actually had quite a shower. The park is lush at the moment and I believe the "game-spotters" as an American visitor called them, had a tough time finding animals in the thick undergrowth. We certainly found fewer animals than expected.

The birding, however, was excellent and we recorded 198 species, despite having a non-birding driver amongst the four of us. He should be commended for his perseverance, patience and braking skills on the often congested roads in the park! The "Birdwatching - Please Pass" sign on our rear windscreen did little to appease his nerves when he was frequently called/commanded/begged to stop on very short notice! Neither did our advance warnings that birders are prone to sudden stops ;-))

On 3 consecutive nights in the Letaba campsite we were entertained by African Barred Owlet, African Scops-Owl and Pearl-spotted Owlet, all calling simultaneously and providing good views. The African Barred Owlet even called from the concealment of a leafy tree around noon one day and was found after some searching. Thick-tailed bushbabies were very active and vocal at night, right above our tent. The Matambeni hide on the Engelhard dam is excellent and provided an assortment of birds.

On 29 June we recorded a formation of 42 Greater Flamingo flying in a southerly direction over Letaba. This was a new winter record for us. So was a single Pied Avocet, rare in the Kruger, which was present at Sunset dam outside Lower Sabie from 2-4 July.
Another Pied Avocet was also seen at Leeupan on 2 July. Leeupan also provided excellent scope views of 2 juvenile Allen's Gallinule, with the adults nowhere in sight. The recently reported African Pygmy-Geese could not be found, but a single Red-knobbed Coot (rare in the Park) was seen.

We were quite surprised to find a young Levaillant's Cuckoo being tended by its Arrow-marked Babbler foster parents and young Babblers in the riparian woodland on the Letaba river, about 4 kms north of camp on the H1-6. This indicates very late egg-laying by the cuckoos (late May). Even more surprising was the sighting of two active and vocal adult Levaillant's Cuckoo in Crocodile Bridge camp on 2 July!

At Hippo Pools on the Crocodile river we recorded Yellow Weaver, a new addition to our Kruger list and seldom seen in the park, according to Sinclair and Whyte's field guide to Kruger birds. We have never seen so many Black-shouldered Kite in the park as on this trip! On 30 June we counted in excess of 60 birds in a 5km stretch of grassland between Olifants and Tshokwane.

Other nice birds we recorded were Shelley's Francolin, Cape Wagtail (sparse in Kruger) and Bronze-winged Courser at Lower Sabie, Bennett's Woodpecker, Black Cuckooshrike (female) and Lesser Honeyguide at Croc Bridge, Mosque Swallow, Bearded Scrub-Robin (in camp) and Square-Tailed Nightjar at Letaba, White-crowned Lapwing at Nkuhlu and Olifants lookout.

Notable and disappointing dips on this trip were, amongst others, African Finfoot (most probably due to driver impatience), Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Spotted Thick-knee (!!), Red-capped Robin-Chat (not even a squeak), Senegal Lapwing, Secretarybird, 3 accipiters, Coqui Francolin, and the list goes on... - Dawie Kleynhans, Sasolburg

 
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